How to meet people offline: What it’s like to date IRL

With online dating now the norm, what’s it like meet people offline? Two writers answer that question by trying to find a mate the old-fashioned way: in person.

Illustration: john S. Dykes

It had been six months since my boyfriend and I broke up, and the likelihood that I would meet another tall, dark and handsome stranger at a Brooklyn BBQ seemed slim. My confidence shot, I’d been perusing dating innovations—Sparkology, HowAboutWe, Tinder—but all resulted in dead ends. So over Labor Day weekend, I resolved to look for love where I had last found it: in person.

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First up was happy hour at Boxers NYC. My friends and I were hanging out when I spotted a man wearing a summer scarf; I might have berated him for his bad fashion sense if he hadn’t been so hot. He held my gaze long enough for me to know I could talk to him, and just as I got up the nerve to make my move, he was sat down beside me. Soon, I was taking him back to my place on the handlebars of a Citi Bike.

The one-night stand gave me a sexual-confidence boost, which I couldn’t wait to put to the test at a Jackie Beat performance at the Laurie Beechman Theatre. Before the show, I told my friends about the return of my mojo, as I scoped out the room. I locked eyes with a tatted hipster and flirted a bit with a skinny blond before the lights went down. In the dark, I made a plan of attack—who was close enough to chat with on the way out? When the lights came up, I tried to recalibrate, but people were already leaving, more focused on autographs than eye-fucking.

The last night of the weekend held the most potential, with a Labor Day roof party in Brooklyn. I tried my best not to overthink it: I busied myself Facebook-messaging boys I had met once or twice but had forgotten to follow up with, inviting them to stop by. I had high hopes for a real connection, so I did a tequila shot for confidence. And then a second. And then some of the potentials from Facebook stopped by, but by then I could barely hold a conversation.

The next day’s hangover was a bitch, but it felt better than sadness, an emotion I haven’t been able to escape since the breakup. Beyond my unexpected hookup, this experiment reminded me how much I enjoy the thrill of live flirtation and spontaneous attraction. It might be easier to talk to boys behind the safety of my iPhone, but that seems more like killing time than making memories. What I always remember is the rush of emotions when I spot someone cute, the sweat on my brow and my wondering if he might be the one.—Benjamin Solomon

NEXT: The best way to meet a mate may be through connections (and puppies)

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